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15 Books About Family Secrets That Will Keep You Guessing
If you live for books that will keep you turning pages, stories about family secrets just might be your Kryptonite.
Everyone has their own crazy family stories, but these books take it to an entirely new level — husbands with double lives, mothers with hidden pasts, and dark family histories abound in these riveting tales. Here are 15 of Book Bub’s favorite books about family secrets, including each book’s publisher’s description.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads.
Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).
Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.
New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.
Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
On scholarship at a prestigious East Coast college, ordinary Mabel Dagmar is surprised to befriend her roommate, the beautiful, wild, blue-blooded Genevra Winslow. Ev invites Mabel to spend the summer at Bittersweet, her cottage on the Vermont estate where her family has been holding court for more than a century; it’s the kind of place where children twirl sparklers across the lawn during cocktail hour. Mabel falls in love with midnight skinny-dipping, the wet dog smell that lingers near the yachts, and the moneyed laughter that carries across the still lake while fireworks burst overhead. Before she knows it, she has everything she’s ever wanted: friendship, a boyfriend, access to wealth, and, most of all, for the first time in her life, the sense that she belongs.
But as Mabel becomes an insider, a terrible discovery leads to shocking violence and reveals what the Winslows may have done to keep their power intact — and what they might do to anyone who threatens them. Mabel must choose: either expose the ugliness surrounding her and face expulsion from paradise, or keep the family’s dark secrets and make Ev’s world her own.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet… So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue.
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family — Hannah — who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.
Reunion by Hannah Pittard
Five minutes before her flight is set to take off, Kate Pulaski, failed screenwriter and newly failed wife with scarcely $100 to her name, learns that her estranged father has killed himself. More shocked than saddened by the news, she gives in to her siblings’ request that she join them, along with her many half-siblings and most of her father’s five former wives, in Atlanta, their birthplace, for a final farewell.
Written with huge heart and bracing wit, Reunion takes place over the following four days, as family secrets are revealed, personal foibles are exposed, and Kate — an inveterate liar looking for a way to come clean — slowly begins to acknowledge the overwhelming similarities between herself and the man she never thought she’d claim as an influence, much less a father. Hannah Pittard’s “engaging and vigorous” prose masterfully illuminates the problems that can divide modern families — and the ties that prove impossible to break.
The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley
Kate Darling’s enigmatic mother — a once-famous ballerina — has passed away, leaving Kate bereft. When her grandmother falls ill and bequeaths to Kate a small portrait of a woman who bears a striking resemblance to Kate’s mother, Kate uncovers a mystery that may upend everything she thought she knew.
Kate’s journey to find the true identity of the woman in the portrait takes her to some of the world’s most iconic and indulgent locales, revealing a love story that began in the wild 1920s and was disrupted by war and could now spark new love for Kate. Alternating between Kate’s present-day hunt and voices from the past, The Book of Lost and Found casts light on family secrets and love-both lost and found.
The Guestbook by Andrea Hurst
Fleeing her picture-perfect marriage among the privileged set of Brentwood and the wreckage of a failed marriage, Lily Parkins decides to move to the only place that still holds happy memories, her grandmother’s old farmhouse. The lush and majestic setting of the Pacific Northwest calls to her and offers a place of refuge and perhaps renewal. Her grandmother has passed away, leaving the Madrona Island Bed & Breakfast Inn to Lily.
Left with only an old guestbook as her guide — a curious book full of letters, recipes, and glimpses into her family history — Lily is determined to embrace her newfound independence and recreate herself, one page at a time. With the help of the quirky island residents she has befriended, she slowly finds the strength to seek out happiness on her own terms. But as soon as she has sworn off men and is standing on her own two feet, Lily meets Ian, the alluring artist who lives next door, and her new life is suddenly thrown off course. The last thing she wants to do right now is to open her heart to another man.
Coming to Rosemont by Barbara Hinske
Forensic accountant Maggie Martin survives the sudden death of her husband, the charismatic President of Windsor College, only to uncover the secrets of his carefully-concealed double life. Dealing with the financial and emotional wreckage left in Paul’s wake, she is stunned to learn he inherited an estate known as Rosemont in the seemingly-serene Midwestern town of Westbury. Why had he never told her?
Maggie travels to Westbury for the stated purpose of listing Rosemont for immediate sale, but what she really seeks are answers to her all-consuming questions about her sham of a marriage; her sham of a life. She never anticipated the seductive charm of Rosemont. Throwing her trademark caution to the wind, and over the objections of her opinionated grown children, she pulls up stakes and moves halfway across the country, determined to make a fresh start in Westbury. Behind closed doors, however, lurks a cadre of evildoers, playing with multiple wild cards of fraud, embezzlement, and arson.
A Family Affair by Mary Campisi
When Christine Blacksworth’s larger-than-life father is killed on an icy road in Magdalena, New York, a hundred miles from the “getaway” cabin he visited every month, she discovers a secret that threatens everything she’s always held to be true. Her father has another family which includes a mistress and a daughter.
Determined to uncover the truth behind her father’s secret life, Christine heads to Magdalena, prepared to hate the people who have caused her to question everything she thought she knew about her father. But what she finds is a woman who understands her, a half sister who cherishes her, and a man who could love her if she’ll let him. The longer she’s around them, the more she questions which family is the real one.
Thought I Knew You by Kate Moretti
Claire Barnes is shattered when her husband Greg goes on a business trip and never returns.
Unwilling to just wait for the police to find him, Claire conducts her own investigation. Her best friend Drew helps her look for answers, but all she finds are troubling questions.
With every clue, she discovers that Greg may not be the man she thought she married.
While battling her growing feelings for Drew and raising her two young children, Claire must learn to live with the knowledge that the truth behind Greg’s disappearance may never be revealed.
Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide….
Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands.
But just a week before her wedding, 30-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever. Georgia does what she’s always done: She returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancé is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets.
A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
Lily Dane has returned to Seaview, Rhode Island, where her family has summered for generations. It’s an escape not only from New York’s social scene but from a heartbreak that still haunts her. Here, among the seaside community that has embraced her since childhood, she finds comfort in the familiar rituals of summer.
But this summer is different. Budgie and Nick Greenwald — Lily’s former best friend and former fiancé — have arrived, too, and Seaview’s elite are abuzz. Under Budgie’s glamorous influence, Lily is seduced into a complicated web of renewed friendship and dangerous longing.
As a cataclysmic hurricane churns north through the Atlantic, and uneasy secrets slowly reveal themselves, Lily and Nick must confront an emotional storm that will change their worlds forever.
Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand
Desperate and facing homelessness, Meredith receives a call from her old best friend, Constance Flute. Connie’s had recent worries of her own, and the two depart for a summer on Nantucket in an attempt to heal. But the island can’t offer complete escape, and they’re plagued by new and old troubles alike.
When Connie’s brother Toby — Meredith’s high school boyfriend — arrives, Meredith must reconcile the differences between the life she is leading and the life she could have had.
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg
Stanislaw is determined to escape the Russians and follow his brother to America, a land where anything seems possible.
With all the men off to war, Fritzi and her sisters must learn men’s work — from fixing flats to driving the tow truck. They add their own touches, too: neat little caps, short skirts and roller skates, and the All-Girl Filling Station is born. Their peace doesn’t last long though: skilled women are needed to fly planes for the war effort.
Mrs. Sookie Earle has just married off the last of her daughters and is looking forward to putting her feet up. But then one day a package arrives. Its contents knock Sookie sideways, propelling her back to the 1940s, and four irrepressible sisters whose wartime adventures force them to reimagine who they are, and what they are capable of.
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, 16-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy — her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.
Now, 50 years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.
Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre-WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds — Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy— who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told — in Morton’s signature style — against a backdrop of events that changed the world.
The Pleasing Hour by Lily King
Lily King’s highly acclaimed, award-winning debut novel is the story of Rosie, an American au pair in Paris whose coming of age defies all our usual conceptions of naïveté and experience. Rosie is fleeing an unspeakable loss that has left her homesick for her family. As she awkwardly grasps for the words to communicate with and connect to Nicole, the cool, distant, and beautifully polished mother of the three children she cares for, Rosie’s bond with the patriarch of the household develops almost too naturally.
When Lola, the middle child, begins to suspect an indecent intimacy between Rosie and her father, Rosie moves to the south of France to care for Nicole’s elderly guardian, the storyteller of the family’s secrets. There, she discovers a past darkened by war and duplicity, and finally comes to understand the tragedy behind Nicole’s elusive demeanor.
What is your favorite book about family secrets? Tell us in the comments!